I am a research geek. I love to scour the fitness association journals that fall into my inbox and dig further from the often misinterpreted articles forwarded to me by clients to find the best information available for application in designing videos, workouts, and programs that I first use myself before sharing.
I’ve included here a trio of the highlights of the studies that caught my eye in this last half of 2016.
The Best Loads and Movement Speeds for Your Workout
This study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning provided information about the best use of speed during the lifting phase of weight training. When you lift quickly and lower with control we refer to it as using “power.” It’s important to make the distinction between using power and simply going to fast such that you’re using momentum. I caution bootcamp trainers and attendees not to rush through exercises so quickly that there’s a compromise in the quality of exercise.
Power has been proven over and over to offer a higher energy expenditure. To me and you, that is essentially like getting a two-for-one. Weight training is not traditionally known as a “calorie burner” compared to aerobic conditioning exercise. And please don’t input that calorie burning is the goal: it’s not as valuable as changing body composition by increasing lean and reducing body fat. Yet, lifting with power can do both increase lean muscle tissue that increases energy expenditure after exercise and increase the energy expended during.
There is something to consider though when you’re doing exercises. The optimal load to lift has to be reached to give you the best results. You have to consider you and your injuries, fitness level, and whether you’ve had a significant enough adaptation period to slow lifting before you add power. In addition, however, the research shows that power at about 50% of your 1-rep max equivalent for upper body exercises and at 80% of your 1-rep max for lower body is best.
That may sound Greek so let me explain. A 50% load is a weight that you can lift about 25 times. At 80% you would only be able to lift a weight 10 times.
I can tell you that for home exercise it’s almost impossible to attain that kind of heavy load. It requires a machine weight or additional support of some kind. If you exercise at home, then, yes it’s still worth it. Do the heaviest load you safely can still using power.
In addition to energy expenditure, lifting at this kind of load for lower body especially, lends itself to weight loss and bone density benefits beyond other kinds of protocols.
There Really is a Best Time for You to Exercise
If you want to reduce your chance of becoming obese, exercise in the morning. The study of 7157 women finds that those less active in the morning hours were 26% more likely to be obese. We don’t honestly know from the results why exactly. I do have several theories however. Tied to prior bodies of research showing that those who exercise early are the most regular exercisers (59%) and to some evidence that fat oxidation is increased with exercise most (and some studies show only) if it’s done in the morning.
Non-scientifically, my working with clients over the last 32 years in groups big and small, as well as one-on-one, has proven over and over again that those clients who exercise early are more active ALL DAY long. Missing morning exercise, or planning even to exercise later in the day, often fails to produce the same kind of results.
If You Have the Time, Alternate Your Strength and Your Cardio Days
If you’re really focused on improving your body composition, that is, losing fat and increasing your lean for better strength, stamina, and tone, lift on one day and do cardio on another. Don’t mix the two.
Though your heart rate will be falsely elevated and your perception of the exercise being “a good one” because it feels harder, your strength benefits will be less than if you split the days you strength train and the days you do your cardio.
Resistance training is negatively impacted by prior aerobic endurance activity. Four different aerobic, or cardiovascular exercise, protocols all negatively affected strength performance when the strength training occurred immediately after. The cardio exercises included a 45 minute run, 20-minute run, interval running, and hill running.
If you have to schedule it all on the same days of the week to fit it in, don’t despair. Especially if you’re a beginner, including each of these components of exercise at all is the first step. Once you progress, however, and particularly if you’re not seeing results though you’re “exercising” then it’s time to change your routine in order to get a change in results.
Clearly, if you are not as strong, and unable to bring your body to true fatigue (vs. what feels like more work from a cumulative effect of exercise), you’ll miss a few of the benefits of resistance training.
I’d love to hear from you. What are your biggest questions about fitness for your second 5o?